Don’t get hired! Part One: How to flunk your interview

Some strategies to avoid getting a job.

I’ve done a lot of hiring over the past couple of years, and have seen so many examples of how to not get the job that I couldn’t resist documenting some of them. This time around, I thought I’d focus on one particular area: the interview. And yes, I’ve seen them all in real life. If you didn’t completely screw up your chances with an awesome CV, and got offered an interview, keep reading!

1. Be late

Better yet: don’t show up at all. But if you feel you really do need to be there, why worry about being on time? After all, setting that precedent at interview might lead them to expect it every day if they hire you. Also, your time is far more important than the hiring manager’s time. He can wait for you, he’s got nothing better to do anyhow.

This strategy is particularly effective when the initial interview is by telephone, as there’s nothing else the interviewer CAN do while he’s waiting for you to join the call.

One of the easiest ways of ensuring you’re late for an on-site interview is to not do a rehearsal trip the day/week before, which would point out any potential gotcha areas and also teach you exactly where you need to go. There are few job-avoidance strategies more effective than “I couldn’t find the place”. Also don’t plan on getting there half an hour early to allow for unexpected delays. That never happens, right? Trains always run on time, and there are never traffic jams. And who wants to burn that extra half-hour sitting quietly in a coffee-shop, marshalling his/her thoughts and focus?

2. Don’t let the interview inconvenience your life

If the first contact-point is a phone interview, don’t bother setting aside some quiet time in a private space. It’s absolutely fine to take this call while having your nails done in a busy salon, or while scoffing a hotdog on one of London’s noisiest street-corners. Or even while at your desk at work. You can multi-task. What’s the problem?

Certainly take care not to let the interviewer have any alternate contact details for you. Your mobile phone works just fine most of the time, right? Why would you want a land-line backup? Oh, and mobile phones are much better than land-lines for interviews. The dropouts, poor reception issues and lousy audio quality are valuable distractions, so don’t fall into the trap of giving out a land-line number as your primary contact.

Should you be unlucky enough to land an in-person interview in the first instance, ensure that you keep glancing at your watch (better yet: your phone). Make it quite clear that you’ve got better things to do. If questioned on this, say “no, no, it’s fine”, and then carry on doing it. For bonus points, don’t silence your phone, and have a friend phone you during the interview. Take the call, tell your friend that you’re in an interview and can’t really talk, then talk for a couple of minutes anyway.

Going to all the trouble of ensuring you can easily have a relaxed conversation with full focus shows an attention to detail that you probably don’t want a prospective employer to get wind of. It indicates that you care about this interview. See point 3 below. Be careful! They might offer you a job.

3. Don’t show that you care

You don’t need this job. You don’t want this job. Make sure this shows in your body language, your tone of voice, your appearance (see below), and your responses. When they ask “why would you like to work with us?”, the only answer worth giving is, “money”. Of course, ensuring that you sound bored or distracted is a no-brainer. Energetic, interested, focused, passionate, engaged people run the risk of getting hired.

4. Every question asked is an opportunity to blow the interview

Give one-word answers to every question. Or better yet, a long, rambling essay of an answer which (and here’s the important bit) bears no relationship whatsoever to the question asked. If the interviewer repeats the same question (and this will happen a lot if you’re getting it right), simply repeat the same answer. Another great tactic is to summarise the question before responding with gibberish. “Oh, you’re asking if I have much experience with continuous integration? Sure I do!”, and then go off on a ramble about evaporative air cooling and why it doesn’t work. It’s all about your attention to detail, or lack thereof. You certainly don’t want to give the impression that you can stay on topic and deliver what’s asked for – madness that way lies.

Show your enthusiasm by interrupting the interviewer frequently. If she asks a follow-up question and you’ve still got more to say… just jump right in. After all, this interview is all about you, right?

5. Be shabby

Your fifteen-year-old jeans, desert-combat boots and lucky hoodie are good enough for your current job (even if it is freelancing from your mum’s basement). They should be good enough for any other job, too. Why on earth would you wear a suit? I mean, really? Dressing with care at interview might set a dangerous precedent if they hire you.

Certainly don’t bother to polish your shoes, shave or get your hair cut. Don’t even comb your hair, it’s just a wasted effort. If you typically wear earrings, nose rings, lip rings, eyebrow rings or a dog collar, there’s no reason to stop now. They should be happy to employ you just the way you are, or not at all. And preferably that second bit.

6. Be smelly

People should appreciate you in your natural state. The human body manufactures various odours. It’s a completely normal biological function. You don’t believe in pretending you’re not human. So don’t brush your teeth, rinse with mouthwash, shower or apply deodorant. Have a garlic-rich meal right before the interview. Forget the gum and breath-mints.

Right through the recruitment process, people are asking themselves, “would we be comfortable spending forty hours a week sitting next to this person?“. Make sure you steer that thinking in the right direction.

7. Don’t prepare

You’ll probably be asked what you know about the company and its products. Why would you care? You don’t want the job anyway, remember? Likewise with awareness of the team you’re not going to be joining; it’s just a waste of time talking about these things.

“Do you have any questions about the role?”… “No” is a perfectly acceptable answer. Surely they know already what work needs doing? Why are they asking you? You don’t work there! D’uh!

In summary

If you carefully and successfully apply the above principles, you should have little trouble avoiding gainful employment. Especially if I’m the hiring manager.

The postings on this site don’t necessarily represent the views or opinions of my employer, professional organisations, political party, family, car manufacturer or anybody at all, really. I don’t know where they come from. It scares me sometimes.

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I'm a grumpy old fart. I know a lot about leadership, culture & agility, something about wellbeing, and a little about woodworking.

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